Sunday, February 20, 2011

A neighborly game of pool

One of the things I love most about Seattle are the distinct personalities of its neighborhoods. The way you can be in a microcosm of a small town in the heart of a relatively large city. Where you can run into people you know at the grocery store and at the gym, where you can know the names of your baristas, walk to a farmer's market, and recognize the lady on the street as one of the local librarians. And so I love my neighborhood of Ballard for many reasons: proximity to the gorgeous waters of the Puget Sound, stunning views of the Olympic mountains, home to the Ballard Locks (where you can gawk at the sailboats and yachts passing through, or in the right season, the salmon heading out to sea), near to my beloved Discovery Park, a walk away from Fresh Flours bakery or Cupcake Royale, also a walk away from the tasty El Camion taco truck and Big Bowl Pho, actually a walk away from just about anything essential (like the library), or not exactly essential but just plain desirable (such as great coffee). Yep, Ballard is a pretty cool place in my books. And for all the fuss over the condo boom here, it is still full of charming houses that fill street after street, complete even with yards and front porches and plenty of pooches and kiddos.

I don't know why, but it fills me with a tingly sense of satisfaction when I am out and about in my little section of the world here in Seattle, brushing shoulders with virtual strangers who happen to be my neighbors. Last night, Ricardo and I decided we were hankering for a couple games of pool, so we hopped a bus outside my door and popped into the new Ballard Ave Pub on Market Street. I've passed it quite a bit, peering in the floor to ceiling windows, and admired the single pool table at the back of the pub. When we arrived, it was pretty dead. Just the pub owner and an old man sitting at the counter nursing a drink. Ricardo and I happily took over the pool table with our 75 cents.

After each of us had won a game, a middle-aged lady with a friendly smile wandered over to us. I'd seen her watching us and wondered if she was mesmerized by our incredible skills (though on second thought, I dismissed that idea) or if she wished we'd hurry up and relinquish the table. Turned out she wanted to know if she and her boyfriend could play doubles with us the next game, on them. Ricardo and I looked at each other, shrugged and said, "Sure. Why not?" She smiled and went back to her seat at the bar next to her boyfriend.

It turns out, the four of us had a great time playing together. I learned that these two have known each other since the fifth grade and after twenty years finally got together. They usually play pool at the OP (or Old Peculiar) down the street, but they said the tables there are old and bad. I couldn't really tell a good table from a bad table, unless you lined them up side by side, but I nodded and tried to talk pool talk with them.

Actually, we just talked neighborly talk, which both Ricardo and I thoroughly enjoyed, and so did they. We laughed a lot, and they apologized several times for being slightly buzzed, and we passed the time like old friends. They had to take off before us, but they kept thanking us for the nice game and said they enjoyed our company, and we agreed and said we hoped to see them at the pool table again. I don't know if we'll run into them again or not, but I have a hunch we might, because that's one of the many things I love about my neighborhood.

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